The first day I was home alone with two kids was memorable. (So very horribly memorable.) I remember trying to get my 17 month old down for a nap, and the newborn wanted to nurse as I was sitting in my medium-toned, wood stained oatmeal microfiber glider and ottoman. I had the older one on my lap, and the baby in the bouncy seat screaming her head off. I tried putting the older one in his crib, and picked up the baby. The older one screamed because he wasn't getting his normal naptime routine. The baby wanted to nurse. I started crying, too. I felt pulled in both directions and didn't know what to do.
Going from one child to two was the biggest transition for me so far in motherhood. Not being able to give my oldest my complete attention when my second came along was hard. I felt really guilty about it. Would I ever be so close to my oldest again? Would he resent having to share me? Would I be ruining him for life? (These are actual things I worried about during my second pregnancy.)
How I finally settled my angst was in the thought that I wasn't taking anything away from my oldest by having a second child. I was giving him a gift that no one else could give him - someone to grow up with, know his whole life, complain about his parents with, share secrets with, play hide-and-seek with, go on vacations with, and run through the sprinkler with. I was scouring my old Marriage & Family Therapy books from school and found one little section about how of all the people in our lives, our siblings are the ones we have the entire time. Parents pass away when we grow up. We don't meet our spouses or children until we're adults. But siblings are special and unique, and good. And that's what I finally settled was what I was giving my son.
On that first day home when both kids wanted me at the same time, I knew in the back of my mind that someday it would get easier (the two kids would play together and be able to wait their turn), but in that moment it didn't matter. Because you can’t ignore an infant and a one-year old can be very demanding of his mama's attention.
I’m writing this blog post is in memory of that overwhelming feeling (and I still have them from time to time with four kids), and for any SAHM out there preparing to transition from one child to two in the near future. So, how is a Stay at Home Mom to cope, when she needs to show love, care, and availability to two children from this day forward?
Here's my three essential skills needed for having more than two kids.
1. Quick prioritizing. Does the newborn always get priority over the toddler? Does it depend on the pitch of the cry? How do you decide? My rule of thumb is that if someone is hurt, they get priority, but always mentally keep track of where the baby is while I tend to an older kid. If no one is hurt, then whoever is the youngest gets priority. After that, if everyone is fine, I guess it’s whoever has the most interesting thing going on. For my older kids, I usually say something like, “I want to hear what you have to say, but first I have to take care of ____. Can you hold on to that thought and tell me in 2 minutes?” That shows them that they are important to me, and what they have to say is important to me, but I just need a minute so I can give them my full attention.
2. Batching. This is not only for the entrepreneurs that read Tim Ferriss’ The Four Hour Workweek (where I learned this tip). Batching means to group similar activities together, or do activities that complement one another at the same time. For example, while one child is napping, have your one-on-one time with the other child. Or if both are napping, thank God, then take advantage of the time and relax (instead of running around doing housework). If both kids are eating solids, put their snack times together. When the older one has outside play time, take the younger one out to swing, too. Whenever you have the opportunity to use the same chunk of time in more than one way with the kids, pounce on it like a mischievous kitten.
3. Listening to two people at once. General smiling and nodding and an enthusiastic, “Oh ya!” goes a long way when both kids are happy and talking at the same time. Pay attention to highlight words so you can track what each child is talking about. If there’s crying, or excitement, mirror that emotion back to them so they know you’re following the story line It’s actually really funny to watch another adult try to listen to two or more kids talk at the same time – not necessarily easy to do, though.
Any time a family member is added to or taken away from a family, there is a transition period. For Stay at Home Moms, the transition from one child to two can be tough in terms of caring for two people that are dependent on you to care for their needs. Use Quick Prioritizing, Batching, and Dual Listening to get off on the right foot in your transition.
Are you an experienced SAHM of more than two kids? What skills were invaluable to you when you transitioned from one to two? Or are you a mom expecting her second child soon; have you gotten other advice about being home with two kids to share with us? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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